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March 27, 2001

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Ration, Ration, Who's Got the Proration

The public's unwillingness to support public education is one of the oldest stories in the world -- hardly worth the telling if it weren't for the profound consequences. In Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, the Duke rejects the story of "thrice three muses mourning for the death of learning, late deceased in beggary" because he was not in the mood for a "keen and critical" satire. The story of " beggary" still reads like satire, but unfortunately it is all too true. The current state of education funding in the state is another example of how eagerly people play out the worst stereotypes of themselves, dancing to the most hideous tunes simply because they believe it is what is expected of them. And one of the facets of the situation that is both saddest and funniest is the behavior of the administration of the University of South Alabama.

One of the fundamental principles of all sciences is that any proposed solution to a situation should be stated in terms of the need that it serves, rather than the form it will take. On being presented with the possibility of having to absorb a large cut in its budget, however, the first response of the University of South Alabama was to offer more courses, duplicating courses and splitting sections in some cases in order to satisfy the asinine requirement that each tenured faculty member teach an additional course. There are two possible explanations for this decision -- each of which is more disheartening than the other. One is that the senior administration are so cerebrally challenged that they are incapable of thinking of other ways of dealing with the funding shortfall. Even to those with the lowest opinions of the administration, however, it is hard to imagine that adding courses is the best solution that the administration could come up with if they were truly trying to craft a solution in terms of the need it serves -- i.e., continuing the basic missions of the university in the face of a severe cut-back in state appropriation. The other possibility is that this solution does in fact address precisely the objective that the administration wants to accomplish -- make its senior faculty spend more time in the classroom. Some close observers of the university administration have suspected for some time that the overarching objective of the senior administration and of at least some of the trustees is to turn the university from a second-rate regional university with a respectable research mission into a fifth-rate teaching school -- in effect, a four-year vocational school. If that is the true objective, the proposed solution to proration is an excellent tactic. It is sure to drive away more faculty and make it next to impossible to recruit new faculty interested in working at a quality university that values and rewards research and community service. If a four-year vo-tech school (with a football team) is what the Mobile community truly wants in the University of South Alabama, it is soon to get its wish.

Life Forms by Dan Silver - Revisited

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Read more comics in the Life Forms Archive!

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I just finished reading an excellent article on Mobile County's air quality, and thought you would be interested in the following, which was sent to me by a SHAKLEE coordinator:

"On Monday night, March 26th, public television will air a ...groundbreaking investigative report on the chemical industry

"In TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT, correspondent Bill Moyers and producer Sherry Jones uncover how our health and safety have been put at risk and why powerful forces don't want the truth to be known. This investigative report, accompanied by a Web site, is based on a massive archive of secret industry documents as shocking as the "tobacco papers."

"TRADE SECRETS provides everyone working on toxic chemicals and environmental health issues a tremendous education and outreach opportunity. To help maximize that opportunity, the Environmental Health Fund, the Environmental Working Group, the Center for Health, Environment and Justice and Women's Voices For the Earth are launching ‘Coming Clean,’ a project aimed at cleaning up the chemical industry's contamination of our food, our bodies and our environment.

"‘Coming Clean’ is working with groups across the country to organize local TRADE SECRETS viewing events. For more information about how you can organize a viewing event in your community, please contact Ann Long at, Charlotte Brody at, Bryony Schwan at or Monica Rohde at

"ACTION: Save the date!

"TIME: 9:00 EST. Check PBS listing for local time throughout the country. Day, Time, and station will vary."

I regret that this information is probably too late for your next.

Darcy Bell Symes

Dear Editor,

It is utterly lamentable that in this day and age a supposed first world, politically stable, and highly developed country such as the United States resorts to the act of barbarism which is the death penalty in order to resolve its current social problems. No logical justification for the usage of the death penalty exists today, with the exception being those who can justify murder because an execution and murder are one and the same.

The increment in the number of death sentences and executions in the United States has occurred in a period in which the tendency throughout the world favors abolition. The United States maintains the death penalty in solidarity with other countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, Chad and Gangladesh. The United States being a said civilized nation opts for an extremely brutal means of dealing with its delinquents.

Complex social problems cannot be solved with the simple quick "execution" fix. In addition to having no deterrent effect, the possibility exists that the brutality of legalized murder on the part of the state facilitates the creation of the violent atmosphere in which murders are easily perpetrated.

American society does not go unaffected by the cold-bloodedness of an execution. We are reduced by it. We cling to the enforcement of petty vengeance instead of concerning ourselves with justice.

The death penalty is an irreversible punishment which negates the human ability to change and further negates the possibility of mistakes made on the part of the state -- a state made up of human beings who are not known to be infallible.

I have confidence in the capacity of the American society to look for alternative punishments instead of settling for the barbarism of the death penalty.

Matthew Vander Slois
Stanford Class 2002
Napa, CA


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